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Bicycling accidents land 800 children a day in emergency rooms -- more than any other sport. And an overwhelming majority of these mishaps occur from April through October. Here's how to keep your budding Lance Armstrong from becoming a statistic:
Size It Right Resist the temptation to buy a bike your child can grow into: One that's properly sized is safer and easier to ride. To gauge fit, have your child sit with the seat at its lowest level; his toes should touch the ground.
Gear Up for Safety An estimated three-quarters of bicycle-related deaths due to head injury involving children could be prevented by wearing helmets. Yet helmet use is lowest among the 10 to 14 age group -- partly because parents are lax enforcers. (In a Safe Kids survey, 53 percent of tweens said they would wear a helmet if it were a parental rule.) Brightly colored clothing makes kids more visible, as do inexpensive flashing taillights.
Proceed with Caution Kids are inherently more reckless than adults, and their limited life experience makes them less likely to recognize danger. Cyclists' risky behavior accounts for 80 percent of bicycle deaths in kids under 14. It's up to you to instruct your child in the fine points of bicycle safety.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, June 2004.